​How Worker Bees Communicate With The Colony

Before the invention of stop lights, traffic officers used to stand in the middle of the intersection and direct traffic with their entire body.

The truth is, this type of ‘navigational dance’ has been happening in nature—most likely—for millions of years.

Bees are a perfect example of this complex ‘navigational dance/pattern’ they employ to communicate to and direct their colony.

What Is The Waggle Dance?

The waggle dance is a figure-eight pattern honey bees perform to provide navigational information to the colony.

Direction and distance to flower patches yielding pollen and nectar (as well as new nest-site and water locations) can successfully be communicated to the colony foragers with this dance performance.

The Shape of The Waggle Dance

The waggle dance consists of two phases: the waggle phase, and the return phase.

In the waggle phase, the bee shimmies along a straight line shaking its whole body (the bees version of the twist) then turns to the right, rounds a half-moon shape returning to its starting point (the return phase).

The Bee repeats the waggle phase, only this time, it turns left and returns to the starting point, again in a half-moon shape (completing the figure-eight pattern).

There is a strong correlation between the direction and distance of the waggle dance and the direction and distance of the location the bee has been scouting for the colony.

Bee Pollination

Here are some interesting facts about how these small insects contribute to society

To say that bees are an essential part of the ecosystem is not only an understatement, but it is also a fundamental misunderstanding of their roll in nature.

Here are some interesting facts about how these small insects contribute to society:

  • In a single day, a bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers.
  • Bee pollination helps to provide nourishing habits for animals like birds and other insects.
  • Bees are major contributors the floral landscapes that we know and love in nature. Bees are vital to the human food supply (they pollinate 70 of the top 100 human food crops).
  • One in three bites of food we eat is derived from plants pollinated by bees.
  • Bees pollinate about 75% of fruits, nuts, and vegetables grown in the North America.

Are Bees Disappearing?

The short answer: yes

Beekeepers are losing up to 50% of their colonies a year. Imagine if cattle ranchers said the same thing about their cattle – we would be all be up in arms!

Why does this tiny insect not get the press it deserves, especially considering the ramification?

CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) was renamed in 2006 after a drastic rise in the number of disappearing western honey bee colonies in North America.

Three signs of CCD:

  1. Presence of a capped brood
  2. Presence of a food source
  3. Presence of a queen bee

Three theories surrounding CCD (according to scientists):

  1. Parasites
  2. Insecticides
  3. Agri-business monocultures – replace flowering meadows with acres of crops that offer no nectar to the bees.